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RFID Blocking: How It Works and Why It's Important

RFID Blocking: How It Works and Why It's Important

Keeping valuables safe has been one of the main concerns for humans for all of recorded history. The pyramids were made for it, any castle found in western Europe housed their valuables, and banks were originally made for this purpose as well. The security of valuables from any type of fraud has always been a primary and pressing concern in any culture. 

One may think that with the advent of a more decentralized form of wealth management through credit cards, contactless cards, stocks, trade options, etc. that we have abandoned the need to protect our physical valuables from a clever thief or two. While this may be true, we still have tethers to the physical world despite our longing to escape from it. 

Because all of the commerce tools still have a general physical rendering (think credit cards), we still need to be worried about security. Obviously, our credit cards house information that, in the wrong hands (your signature, credit card number, and card expiration date) could set back years of financial vigilance. With that being said, we need to understand how modern-day security for valuables works. 

We have abandoned the safe, the castles’ guards, the pyramids’ traps, and the funeral mounds’ curses for an acronym: RFID. Here we will break down what RFID technology is, how it works on the ground, and why it is important to protect your credit card information, and more.

Hopefully, you will better understand this acronym that is the barrier between you and all those who want your valuables. 

What Is RFID?

At Andar, we know a thing or two about RFID security, but it is still helpful to recap this information. RFID’s history dates back to the Second World War but was used for a very different purpose than what it is today. Still, its use is arguably more important now than ever since breaches to RFID security are increasing every day.

The Simple Explanation

In the most simple of terms, RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. What this means is each piece that houses an RFID unit (they are honestly quite small) has an identification through a very specific and unique radio frequency.

Like other forms of identification, it has to be unique and lightly encrypted to work, but that does not mean it is safe from those seeking to break into it. RFID protection is good but not great. 

The RFID unit sends out radio frequencies that act as an identifying frequency. All you need is something to read these frequencies in order to access information. Take credit card scanners as the easiest example of this. You tap your Visa or MasterCard on the screen of a coffee shop POS system after the young, over-caffeinated barista asks you to tap or insert the back of your card for payment.

Next, the reader can detect and decode your card’s RFID unit to get all the necessary information to process the transaction. This all happens in the blink of an eye, and you probably do not even realize that your card is emitting this frequency. After all, it is not even connected to a power source! Well, with minimally advanced RFID units, you do not even need a power source to run these systems and transactions.

This can even happen with contactless credit cards: If you have Apple Pay, you can even use your Apple Watch or similar accessories to pay with contactless technology. These devices use NFC (near field communication), which is a specific type of RFID.  RFID can be attached to your cell phone, credit cards, AirPods, passport, even baby monitors. So, if this technology is used in so many areas of your life that mean a lot to you and protect you, your next question should be: what dangers are there to this information?

The Dangers: Skimmers and Scammers

To make a long story short, scammers will try to get your credit card’s RFID (which is referred to as skimming). There are a few common ways that scammers use to try to steal information from underprepared and unsuspecting people.

Here we will list a few of them. 

As a general rule, it is strongly advised to be in contact with your credit card company over their fraud policies. Some companies have forgiveness up to a large dollar amount, so consider using these businesses instead. In addition, you can pay a little extra for more insurance to ease your mind.

Consider these options, as this is really your last line of defense against RFID skimmers. None of these threats are totally avoidable, so having the peace of mind and insurance of a good credit card company will help. 

In-Slot Skimmers

These are possibly the most common types of skimmers. Scammers will place very, very small devices in the slots that you would put your credit card into. This could be at the gas station (most common), parking meters, stores, or literally anywhere you swipe or insert your card. These are not always easily avoidable, but there are a few steps to make sure you keep yourself safe from these.

Firstly, make sure you know the area and place of business if you can help it. If you know that a certain gas station has a bad reputation, consider going a bit further to another gas station to fill up. There are many other reasons to do this besides credit card safety (namely bodily safety), but this is a wise idea. 

If you cannot do this, try to examine the slot itself. Normally, these skimmers are visibly shoved to one side or the other of the slot itself. If it looks like there is a knob that will go under your card when you insert it, check the other slots around the area to see if they have the same thing; if they do not, do not use that system! 

Drive-by Skimming

This type of skimming is a little bit harder to do, but with better technology for making these skimmers smaller and less conspicuous, it is becoming more common. Essentially, drive-by means more walk-by. The scammer will have the device in their hand or pocket, and they have to get in close enough contact with your RFID system to skim the information. 

Usually, this happens in crowded spaces and will seem like an innocent bump (like pickpockets). They will not always even need to touch you or your card to get its information. This type of RFID skimming is increasing in popularity because of the large number of credit cards that have a tap feature enabled.

Because there does not need to be any physical scanning, you are more susceptible if you have this type of credit card. These criminals can use RFID scanners to steal your information right through the pockets in your shirts or jeans with the power of electromagnetic fields. This sensitive information is often then uploaded to the dark web. 

Luckily, this sort of skimming can be taken out altogether. At Andar, we equip our wallets with RFID blocking powers. This means that the cards housed in this wallet are not able to be scanned by walking by.

An RFID-blocking wallet will block the radio transmitted frequencies while inside your pocket but do not take away the ability to use the tap feature when you want to. All you have to do is take it out of the wallet.

Not only are Andar’s wallets, such as the Apollo, functional and safe, they are also quite stylish, made from top-of-the-line full grain leather. This sleek and beautiful wallet will also keep the RFID scammer’s prying eyes out of your information and out of your life. 

Why Is This Important?

Security has always been a concern amongst humans. Even for those who do the stealing in antiquity, think of all the ways that they thought of keeping their stolen goods safe. Pirates buried them in unknown places leaving only maps and riddles behind to understand where they hid their rewards. Luckily for you, you do not have to bury your credit cards. 

Instead, you can keep all of your personal information safe and keep yourself from becoming one of the quarter of a million people every year that experience credit card fraud in the United States. In these cases, some people do not always get their money back, even if they prove their funds were stolen. In the end, banks do not always claim responsibility for that, nor do the culprits always get caught.

Instead, you should make sure your bank has favorable policies when it comes to credit card scams. Additionally, you should take all the necessary precautions before presenting your credit card at a payment terminal. And most importantly, you should consider purchasing a beautiful and functional RFID blocking wallet. 



Understanding RFID skimming: an infographic | IFSEC Global 

Credit Card Fraud Statistics | Self Financial 

Crook installs skimming device on credit card machine at Covina gas station | ABC 7 News